Sephardic Names; Follow-up to Dr. Sack's program on Jewish Names #names #sephardic

Lee Jaffe

I'd like to ask for help understanding practices or conventions or ... among Portuguese Jews, both in Portugal before and during the Inquisition, and then in diaspora as they settled (?) in new countries.  I've looked at some guides on JewishGen and they have helped a bit but haven't addressed some specific situations I've encountered with records I'm researching.  I probably should post this on the Sephardic forum but we were told we could send follow-up questions to Dr. Sack's program yesterday here.  

For instance, I notice that in most cases, children are given a second name indicating their father.  For instance, if the father is Aron, the children would be named Yschak Aron, Gracia Aron, David Aron ... etc.  Aside from wondering if this was an Iberian or Jewish practice (as in Isaac ben Aron, Hannah bat Aron), I also want to know if this was a consistent-enough practice to be a reliable indication of parentage.  For instance, where I've come across a record for a family where the father is named Aron but the entry for the daughter is Gracia Samuel, I've questioned the accuracy of the record.  The trees where I'm finding these records often contradict each other about critical details like this and it would help to have some sort of litmus test that might sort out the more-likely from the less-likely options. 

By the way, I've learned that the Spanish Gracia is the equivalent of Hannah, which brings me to another question.  There is a confusing mix of Spanish and Hebrew given names, sometimes shifting from case to case.  I hypothesize that this is partly the result of whether the source was a civil or communal record.  I also suspect – though I haven't found much info on the subject – that Hebrew names were suppressed while under the thumb of the Inquisition in Spain or Portugal and revived later in safety of the Netherlands or other sanctuary country.  Did Jews who converted, either "voluntarily" or forcibly under the Inquisition, take new given names?  And, if so, would they be Christian/Spanish versions of their Jewish names (Hannah > Gracia)?  Understanding this better may help with determining whether two records for somewhat similar names represents two different people or one person who was know by more than one name.  

Finally is the question of family names.  I've noticed in many records I've encountered recently that offspring will inherit or use a different form of the family name than the parents, at least in more formal records.  For instance, a handwritten 18th C. Netherlands marriage document for Lea Abraham Isaac Namias de Crasto and Aron Samuel Sarfait da Pina lists the groom's name as "Aron von Samuel Sarfati alias Aron de Pina Junior."  I haven't encountered many documents of this sort yet in my searches and I would guess that it is rare to find such which establish definitively that the two names refer to the same person.  More often I'm left with associating (or dismissing) records based on vaguer name similarities matched with dates of birth/death and close relatives.  Any advice about practices for Sephardic family names from generation to generation would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your help,

Lee Jaffe
JAFFE > Suchowola
SCHWARTZ > Perth Amboy

Sally Bruckheimer <sallybruc@...>

"I'd like to ask for help understanding practices or conventions or ... among Portuguese Jews".

These naming conventions are different in different locations. I have never seen a child in Amsterdam with a double given name, with the parent's name the second half. Western Ashkenazi have the child's given name then the father's, without the 'ben' in between; this might look like a double name, but it isn't: Marum Moses is Marum the son of Moses.

The surname confusion was mainly early on, after the Sephardi became calmer about the Inquisition, they gave one surname to all their kids, and, conveniently, they differentiated different families, with cousins all named the same (9 Duarte Daiz named after the first) by appending the mother's surname, like many Spaniards still do today, but a permanent addition, leading to Vas Nunes da Costa de la Penha as one surname.

But I know that Joseph da Costa was Joao Perez da Cunha, so it isn't a problem in the records. The problems occur when many use the same aliases, so you don't know which person it is. I always assumed that was to confuse the Inquisition, as many traveled to Spain/Portugal for business.

Sally Bruckheimer
Princeton, NJ


Lee Jaffe: I saw you listed the town of Snovsk. My grandfather Aron Revzin emigrated there in 1913. His parents were Feivish and Chaia Haykin. Aron was the only son among three older sisters: Baile (married Mendel Shulman); Chana (married Samuel Polley), Frieda (married Samuel Marshak). Baile and Mendel/Max settled on Staten Island and Chana and Frieda, along with Aron/Harry in Chicago. Any connection?
Barbara Cohen